Education chief 'profoundly concerned' over 'shocking' decline in children's learning

29 January 2021, 16:29 | Updated: 29 January 2021, 16:32

By Fiona Jones

Education chief Professor Becky Francis expressed her "profound concern" about education in primary school pupils as a recent test showed some are seven months behind - and some did not even know how to take the test.

There has been a “shocking” decline in primary school pupils’ levels of attainment in England during the pandemic with testing showing those from disadvantaged backgrounds may be seven months behind in reading and maths.

The study is based on data collected by the National Foundation for Educational Research from assessments in reading and maths taken in November by nearly 6,000 six and seven-year-olds in 168 schools in England.

The study also found that "a very large number of pupils were unable to engage effectively with the tests".

Education Endowment Foundation chief Professor Becky Francis branded this finding a "profound concern."

"It confirms a lot of the worries that teachers and parents have had about the effects of the pandemic on young peoples' learning," she said, predicting this effect on children to be "cumulative."

"What was of particular concern was the number of young people who were actually unable to even engage effectively with the test," Professor Becky said.

She confirmed that some children looked at the test and were unsure what to do - and some children's scores were so low that "they didn't count."

"Those numbers seem to have tripled for reading particularly and again I'm sure that this will be building on some of the concerns that teachers and parents have had in the interim," Professor Becky said, highlighting the importance of a sustained approach to compensating this learning loss.

"There's no quick fix, we need to think of short term and long term strategies here."

Read more: Impact of Covid-19 will severely widen education gap: Education Policy Institute Chair